1.         Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi) (N 289)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2017)
Total amount approved: USD 147,423
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 50,000 in 2015 through the UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism programme (Flanders Funds-in-Trust); USD 45,000 in 2019 through the UNESCO-Netherlands Funds- in-Trust; USD 300,000 in 2020-2021 through UNESCO/Government of Norway cooperation

Previous monitoring missions

March/April 2014: joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 4 April 2023 the State Party of Malawi submitted a state of conservation report for the property available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/documents/, reporting the following:

On 27 July and 15 December 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent letters to the State Party in response to its submission of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the Mangochi Potable Water Supply project within the property. On 29 March 2023, the World Heritage Centre transferred to the State Party third-party information reporting severe coastal siltation caused by the project.

On 7 July 2022, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party on the planned upgrade and rehabilitation of the Monkey Bay-Cape Maclear Road project in response to the State Party’s notification.

The joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property took place between 27 March and 2 April 2022 in line with Decision 44 COM 7B.82 (the mission report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/documents/).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The reported efforts of the State Party, in partnership with several partners, to strengthen the management and protection of the property is commendable. By enhancing operational, monitoring and research capacity, and improving cooperation with local communities and across Government departments, these activities address management priorities, but also require careful coordination to ensure efforts are coherent and contribute to the protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). All major outputs, such as the assessment on management effectiveness and the resource use guidelines, should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and shared with IUCN. The State Party submitted, for review by World Heritage Centre, a topographic map which may assist the conclusion of the Retrospective Inventory of the property boundaries by the World Heritage Centre. Support from partners is an opportunity to implement and feed into the next update of the 2019-2024 Management Plan, and to address the recommendations of the 2022 Reactive Monitoring mission, including the need to address the excessive resource use and illegal agricultural encroachment within the property, enhance and implement a comprehensive monitoring protocol for the property, and to monitor the ecological health of the lake.

While the 2022 mission confirmed the State Party’s notable progress, it noted that due to its small size and serial configuration (with 16 separate component parts), the property remains very vulnerable to human pressures, originating both within and beyond its boundaries. Cape Maclear peninsula within the property was reported as significantly degraded through excessive resource use, and over-fishing and long-term water quality changes alter the lake ecology. To better protect its OUV, the mission also re-confirmed the desirability of an extension of the property, as it has been noted previously by the Committee (see e.g., Decision 44 COM 7B.82). The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the State Party to assess the feasibility of a potential extension, notably within the lake, and to request International Assistance and technical support for this work as required. Such a feasibility study would document the constraints due to land and resource use pressure but also the potential benefits including sustainable fisheries.

In agreement with the State Party, the 2022 mission reviewed the proposed Mangochi water supply project on the small Nkhudzi Hills component of the property. However, at the time of the mission, the construction was already at an advanced stage limiting the mission’s possibility to provide technical inputs to the project design and execution to ensure protection of the property’s OUV. Recent reports note severe coastal siltation due to runoff caused by vegetation that was cleared for the access road to the hill-top water tank. This affects the habitat of the cichlid fish, and visual integrity, and could therefore have a direct impact on the OUV and impact the viability of the project; regrettably no updated information was received from the State Party. Furthermore, in March 2022, the European Investment Bank (EIB) initiated a Complaints Mechanism process for the SRWB Water Supply and Sanitation Programme and its Mangochi component (https://www.eib.org/​en/about/​accountability/​complaints/cases/srwb-water-supply-and-sanitation-programme-sg-e-2022-05), which will review the recommendations stemming from the 2022 mission.

While access to clean and safe drinking water is essential, the mission reported that the project had moved forward without sufficient consideration of alternative locations, environmental safeguards and regard for stakeholder concerns raised at the proposal stage. Any damage caused to date should be fully documented and restored as fully as possible using the best available practices that avoid further deterioration, including through further tree cutting, siltation, introduction/expansion of invasive species and illegal resource harvest. Independently verified mitigation measures should be implemented as set out in the project ESIA. This documentation, including the accompanying emergency response plan and heritage management plan proposed by the State Party, should have been made available before the start of any works, and it is of concern this work has proceeded without prior assessment and with apparent direct impacts on the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that construction of any new major infrastructure projects should in principle be planned outside this very small property.

In view of the significant challenges faced with the water supply project, it is welcome that the State Party is committed to ensure that all future projects with potential impact on the property’s OUV, including for oil exploration and tourism development in areas with potential to impact the property are subject to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) conducted in accordance with the new Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessment in a World Heritage context. Noting with concern that oil exploration has been pursued in the northern and central blocks of Lake Malawi and that consultations are ongoing on the mining sector policy, as noted by the 2022 mission, the State Party should also clarify the status of the issued licences and this work. No update was received from the State Party on the Monkey Bay-Cape Maclear Road project, which should undergo an ESIA before any construction starts.

Finally, it is recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to implement the recommendations of the 2022 Reactive Monitoring mission in full and report on progress made.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.74

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.9242 COM 7B.93 and 44 COM 7B.82 adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 42nd (Manama, 2018) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the significant efforts made by the State Party, in partnership with several partners including local communities, to strengthen the management and protection of the property, including through enhanced operational, monitoring and research capacity, and encourages the State Party to ensure effective coordination of the activities to ensure their effectiveness and assure their contribution to the protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  4. Noting the findings of the 2022 mission that the property remains very vulnerable to human pressures, originating both within and beyond its boundaries, due to its small size and serial configuration, also recalls its request to the State Party to assess the feasibility of a potential extension, and to request International Assistance and technical support from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN for this work as required;
  5. While acknowledging the necessity of providing clean and safe water to local communities, regrets that the Mangochi water supply project within the Nkhudzi Hills component of the property commenced without sufficient consideration to alternative locations, environmental safeguards and regard for stakeholder concerns raised at the proposal stage, and with apparent risks and ongoing potential to negatively affect the property’s OUV, which may also impact the viability of the project;
  6. Urges the State Party to ensure that all damage caused to date by the Mangochi water supply project is documented, and restored as fully as possible using best available practice that also avoids further deterioration, including through unnecessary tree cutting, siltation, introduction/expansion of invasive species and illegal resource harvest, and to implement independently verified mitigation measures as set out in the project’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA);
  7. Notes with appreciation the State Party’s commitment to ensure that all projects with potential to impact the property’s OUV are subject to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) conducted in accordance with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage context, which should include the Monkey Bay-Cape Maclear Road project, also recalling that, for each project, it is essential that an EIA:
    1. Is completed before any final decisions are taken or construction works commence,
    2. Integrates all stakeholder consultations and allows sufficient time for meaningful participation, including by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN,
    3. Includes consideration for alternative options, allowing project details to be revised as necessary;
  8. Reiterates its concern regarding the continuation of oil exploration activities in blocks 2 and 3 covering a large part of Lake Malawi, which pose a potentially severe risk to the lake ecosystem and the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and also requests the State Party to clarify at the earliest opportunity on the status of the oil exploration licences and related EIAs within Lake Malawi, report on the outcome of the mining sector policy consultations, and to ensure that EIAs are developed in accordance with the highest international standards and in line with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage context, and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before any potential exploratory drilling is permitted to proceed;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to implement all of the recommendations from the 2022 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, and report on progress, including:
    1. Resolve recommendations related to the Mangochi water supply project and the status of oil exploration as stated above;
    2. Continue to encourage and support the local communities in the enclave villages,
    3. Finalise demarcation of the property boundary, resolve illegal agricultural encroachment and address resource use in the property;
    4. Improve agriculture and other land use practices in the headwaters of the river catchments;
    5. Enhance ecological monitoring of the property and the lake, and ensure that non-native species of fish (especially top-level predators) are not introduced into the lake or its catchment areas;
    6. Strengthen the capacity of the Park and other institutions, including through enhanced inter-agency synergies and collaboration;
    7. Continue to promote sustainable tourism initiatives, and further examine the feasibility of the extension of the property.
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.